Appeal for Norfolk businesses to support homeless people to gain skills and experience

Phillip Rowe, St Martins

Norwich-based charity St Martins gives homeless people housing, support and development to enable them to fulfil their potential. Phillip Rowe, who co-ordinates the charity’s learning and development centre believes local businesses have a role to play in equipping homeless people with the skills they need to achieve an independent life.

Homelessness is a growing problem, both nationally and here in Norfolk. Although the government have committed to end homelessness, there are still many underlying issues that need addressing before that can become a reality.

St Martins was established in 1972 to specifically deal with rough sleeping in Norwich, initially as a night shelter. Over the past 47 years it has evolved into an organisation serving those who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, in all sorts of creative ways.  But, St Martins’ motto being: ‘More than a home for the homeless’, that’s not where our provision ends. This is where Under 1 Roof comes in.

Under 1 Roof is St Martins’ Learning and Development Centre. The aim of the centre is to facilitate positive change, through improved wellbeing and personal development. Our members (we do not refer to them as ‘service users’) come from a wide variety of circumstances. Some have substance misuse histories, others suffer from mental health problems. Some are rough sleepers, others are at risk of homelessness (such as those in prison or temporary housing).

Over the last year we have seen 433 people take part in over 5000 sessions here, including practical activities such as I.T. skills, Job Club and our pre-tenancy qualification, and more soft skill ones like art, creative writing and various fitness classes. We also offer support, advice and help with anything that we can. All this serves to build confidence, social skills and a sense of ‘future’. In addition to this, we have created six volunteer roles, for people to learn skills and gain experience. Many of our volunteers go on to work for St Martins too.

As a former homeless service user who is now working full-time as the Centre Co-ordinator at Under 1 Roof, I can personally attest to the effectiveness of what St Martins, and this centre, can achieve.

We are already building links with local organisations and businesses with a view to providing opportunities for our members. But we want to do more. Much more. And that’s where we hope the good members of the Norfolk Chamber will come in.

Over to You!

Homelessness is hard, it can knock you back and take years of your life. But it can also take years to recover. There is a stigma attached to homelessness, and it can mean long-term unemployment, a falling behind in necessary skills and often a lack of access to new practices and technology. These are all potential barriers to entering the job market, and create an ever-widening gap between the person and opportunity. In many cases this can lead to lower self-esteem, lack of motivation and hope.

We want to do something bold to address this. We want to partner with the Norfolk Chamber and its members to provide opportunities for these people. Maybe you have a work experience position, an internship or training/apprenticeship scheme. Perhaps you can come in and talk to our members, offer workshops or advice clinics. Or maybe you can direct us to opportunities or potential partners we aren’t aware of. Whatever, we would love to hear from you. People love to talk about problems. We prefer to talk about solutions. Let’s start a conversation!

Tel: 01603 699150

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